By Ramón Medina
On November 27, 2017, TEA issued a To The Administrator Addressed letter encouraging school districts and charter schools to document any loss of records due to Hurricane Harvey. Notably, the agency did not declare that it would not hold districts and charters that lost records during Hurricane Harvey and subsequent weather events accountable for the lost documentation and related compliance requirements that such records support. Instead, TEA merely said that it would “work with you, to the extent that is legally possible, to avoid findings related to TEA compliance monitoring and audit work” if the district or charter “documents its records loss”.
Although it may not be entirely possible to avoid an audit finding if TEA’s guidance is followed, it is nonetheless incumbent upon and important for districts and charters to document the loss of records due to Hurricane Harvey and any other weather or unforeseeable and uncontrollable event. Also, in this day and age of everything digital, districts and charters should consider converting physical records to digital records, particularly those demonstrating compliance with fiscal and mission critical legal requirements whose loss might result in an adverse financial consequence or sanction. If such a decision is made, districts and charters should ensure legal compliance with the statutory requirements at Local Government Code Chapter 205 and the related regulations at Texas Administrative Code, Title 13, Chapter 7, Subchapter C.